In an era when we lament the fact that the remake, the sequel, and the reboot have come to dominate the media landscape, it can be easy to forget that older forms of art (in particular, theatre) used to survive exclusively through their continual reinterpretation and re-presenetation. Since his death, William Shakespeare has arguably garnered more of such ‘remakes’ and ‘reboots’ than any other artist, yet there are still great, interesting, and even somehow new versions of his works every year, on the stage and on the screen.
It is worth pointing out, then, that a remake or reboot is only bad if it adds nothing new to the original work and does not present an interesting version of the original work. And if that seems like a tired point to you, then I would like to make that case in a new way (a remake of my own, as it were) by zeroing in on one of Al Pacino’s scenes from Michael Radford’s film version of The Merchant of Venice, and discussing why it works so well as a new presentation of older material.
The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of The Merchant of Venice, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film (or read the play, or seen a staging, etc.).
Remakes are Not your Enemy: